Feyli Kurds

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Feylis (also Faylis, Failis or Faylees) are a group of Lurs [1] located mainly in Luristan, Kermanshah, Ilam, Iran; in Baghdad, Iraq; and in the Diyala Governorate, Iraq around Khanaqin and Mandali. There are estimated 6.000.000 of them and are an important community within the wider Kurdish people.[citation needed] The Feyli dialect of the Kurdish language is spoken on both sides of the border between Iraq and Iran.[2]

The roots of the Feylis go back to the Parthian (also known as Pahlawi or Pahlawanid) settlements of the 2nd century BC. Archaeological evidence[citation needed] from the Ilam Province in Iran indicates that some Feylis might have been Nestorian Christians until the 18th century. The conversion to the Shia form of Islam seems to have begun under the Safavid dynasty (1507–1721) of Persia. Feylis today are primarily Imami Shias like the Persians and the Azeris, as well as the majority of the Iraqi Arabs.

As M. R. Izady notes in his work (The Kurds: A Concise Handbook, London, 1992):[3] 'The territory inhabited by the Pahli/Fayli Kurds was known as "Pahla" (meaning "Parthia") since the 3rd century AD. The area boasted to one of the most important Parthian settlements outside Parthia proper (or Khurasan province in Iran). The name "Pahla" was also used for the area by the early Muslim geographer until the 13th century, after which the name "Luristan" gradually came to replace it. Arabic texts recorded the name as "Fahla" or "Bahla", (note: the Arabic language lacks the letter "P"). Subsequently, "Fahla" evolved to 'Faila' and 'Faili' -- the modern name of the Pahli Kurds. In fact, there is still a small town called 'Pahla' in the south of the major city of Ilam, Iran which is the heart of traditional settlement occupied by Pahlis.' The name "Parthia" is a continuation from Latin Parthia, from Old Persian Parthava, which was the Parthian language self-designator signifying "of the Parthians" who were an ancient Iranian people.[4]

In modern times the Feylis have been subject to state persecution.[5][6] They are considered a stateless people, with both Iran and Iraq claiming they are citizens of the other country.[7] In the mid 1970s, Iraq expelled around 40,000 Feylis who had lived for generations near Baghdad and Khanaqin, alleging that they were Iranian nationals.[8]

In his book "Ameroir of Baghdad" issued by Al-Rais publishing house, in Cyprus in 1993. The ex minister Mosa Al-Shabandar describes the life of the Feylis. It is very difficult to give an accurate estimate of the Failis' population, as many of them in Iraq have been deported and ethnically cleansed; however, some estimate that about 2.5 millions lived in Iraq and 3 million in Iran. The Iraqi Minorities Council and Minority Rights Group International estimate that before the current war there were 1,000,000 Feylis in Iraq.[9]

Etymology of the name[edit]

A likely explanation is given by M. R. Izady.[10] He claims that the Arabic Feyli is a corruption of Pahla, meaning Parthia, a kingdom based in modern day Iran, contemporaneous with the Roman Empire. The change occurred because Arabic alphabet lacks the letter p, rendering it as an "f" instead (this sound change can also be seen in Palestine/Philistin فلسطين and Persian/فارسي), but sometimes also as a "b". Early Arabic texts recorded the name as Fahla or Bahla, the former of which became the more common, corrupting eventually to Faila, of which the adjective is Faili or Feyli.

Feyli homeland[edit]

Since ancient times, the Feylis have lived in the border area between Iraq and Iran, which consists of both sides of the Zagros Mountains, which they call it Kabir Kuh, "the great mountain". The areas on the Iraqi side from north to south are the following: Khanaqin, Shahraban (now called Al-Meqdadia), Mandali, Badrah, Zorbateyah, Jassan, Al–Kut and Al-Azizyah. They also reside in a number of cities in the area of Shaikh Sa’ad, Ali Sharqi, Ali Gharbi and Al–Kofah, which is 170 kilometres (110 mi) south of Baghdad. However, as early as the first decade of the 20th century, many Feylis moved to Baghdad and lived in its center. Consequently, there are some areas which are named after them, such as the Kurdish quarter, the Kurdish alley, and the Kurdish Street.

On the Iranian side, the Feylis live in the following areas, from north to south: Qasr-e Shirin, Kermanshah, Karand, Eslamabad-e Gharb (former Shah Abad), Sarpol-e Zahab, Gilan-e Gharb, Ilam, Chavar, Badreh, Dehloran, Abdanan, Darreh Shahr, Eyvan, Meymeh, Pahleh.


The area is dry in summer but the mountains are usually covered with lays of snow, which melts in summer to irrigate the lands. In summer, many people move with their sheep to the tops of the mountains because there are wide areas of grass; when the winter comes, they go back to their villages. Some people work in trade and goods exchange and other free works (urban professions).

Tribes and clans[edit]

Feylis consist of many tribes and clans. Their names are sometimes based on the name of their tribal leader or where they live but sometimes they take vocational names. Here are listed some of them:

  • Ali Sherwan (he was from the tribe of Sanjabi and established Beyrey tribe) tribe and his four sons Cheragh, Safar, Heydar or Hiar, and Dara — each one of these four established a tribe in his name like Cheragh Wandi, Safar Wandi, Hiar Wandi, and Dara Wandi) Malek Shahi tribe
  • Jamal Vandi tribe
  • Ansari tribe
  • Kalhur tribe
  • Zouri or Zhohairi clan
  • Qaitoli clan
  • Khezell or Khaza`al clan
  • Shuhan clan
  • Mousi clan
  • Saki tribe

Ali Sherwan is the name of a prominent Feyli tribe inhabiting mainly Ilam in Iran. Members of the tribe believe themselves to be descendants of Ali Sherwan. Feyli are composed of several clans. Their names can tell about where they are from, what clan they belong and where they live. According to Najm Suleiman Mahdi in his book "The Faily Kurds, Who are they," is the most important Feyli clans following;

Laki, Kordali, Ali Sherwan consisting of (his four sons/clans Cheragh Wandi, Safar Wandi, Her Wandi, Dara Wandi), Malek Shahi, Jaberi, Ansari, Kalhor, Zouri or Zhohairi, Qaitoli, Khezell, Showhan, Mousie, Warkoz, Kalawai, Bolia, Maliman, Zand, Soria-Mori, Mamsani, Jgangi, Papi, Bojarahmad, Kahlgilija, Mishkhas, Hasanwandi, Pirawandi, Kakwandi, Dinawandi, Dohsan, Zouri, Bawe, Larti, Heni-meni, Qazi, Qalawlaws, Aljoi, Mafi, Warizwand, Amreri, Panchseton, Wazrgoush, Tolabi, Siljurzi, Shola, Qaderhama, and Kaka.[citation needed]

The Feylis in the Iraqi society[edit]

The existence of the Feyli's in Iraq has never been marginal. On the contrary, they have participated in all political, social, cultural, and economical activities.

Economical role[edit]

The Feylis have had a great economical and commercial weight, especially in Baghdad. They owned and operated merchant, logistics, construction businesses. After the Baghdad Jews left Iraq during the early 1950s (see History of the Jews in Iraq and Operation Ezra and Nehemiah) in the aftermath of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War and the creation of the state of Israel, some Jews sold their business (mostly in trading) to Feylis. The wealth pushed Saddam to confiscate their capitals and properties and expel them to Iran, claiming that Feylis are not genuine Iraqis but instead that they are Iranians. The injustice that happened to the Feylis is similar as what happened to the Jew during the II World War in Europe.[neutrality is disputed]

Political role[edit]

The Feylis suffered severe oppression under Saddam Hussein and his Baathist government. They joined others in opposing the dictatorial government in Iraq and fighting alongside other Iraqis and also joined national Iraqi parties such as the Iraqi Communist Party, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), and the National Kurdish Association.

Social role[edit]

The Feylis have had a very effective role in social life as they have established social centers, clubs, and youth and women associations. That has been made possible due to the presence of many famous Feylis in different fields.

Deportation from Iraq during the Saddam era[edit]

During the 70s and 80s a large segment of the Feyli population in Baghdad were forcibly deported to the Iranian border by Iraqi police and intelligence units on the order of the authorities. Their properties seized as well as being stripped of their legal documents and citizenship, the Feyli's were effectively rendered into right-less foreigners.[11] Most of the targeted families were of significant influence on a large spectrum of Iraqi society. Having a high level of education, commercial success and ranking positions in the military. The Baathist regime fearing potential dissidence and opposition, implemented deportation policies against Feylis. The official claim was that Feylis were Iranian nationals.[12]

Adult males between the ages of 18-55 were detained and sent to various prison complexes in the country, with no legal procedures such as trials being taken before incarceration. It is estimated that between 13,000-30,000 Feyli's died under the conditions of captivity and systematical murder by the Baathist intelligence apparatus. These human right violations were only recognized after the fall of the regime, when access to documents and testimonies of former inmates and personnel became available. The underlying pretext for this act, was that Shiite Feylis would become potential recruits for the Iranian government, post-deportation.

Joost Hiltermann points to the old SafavidOttoman struggle, as the leadership of each country used religious references to characterize themselves, their enemies and their battles, unfailingly casting these in sectarian terms. One group of victims of this practice were Feylis, deported by Saddam Hussein’s regime to Iran on the grounds that, supposedly, they were basically Persians. It was no coincidence, however, that Feylis are also Shiites. Feylis were not the only Iraqi Shiites to be deported to Iran, both during the Iran–Iraq war and before it. The practice affected any Iraqi Shiites who were listed in Iraq’s population register as ‘‘of Persian origin’’ (taba’iya Faresiya), as opposed to ‘‘of Ottoman origin’’ (taba’iya Othmaniya). This designation stemmed from Ottoman times, when citizens who sought to evade extended military service used a Persian ancestor to claim they were not Ottoman subjects. The modern Iraqi state inherited this system in the early 1920s. Post-1958 republican regimes used it as the basis for deportation policies designed to serve political agendas.[13]

2010 Trial of Baathists involved in crimes against Feylis[edit]

On Monday 29 November 2010, an Iraqi court found Saddam Hussein's longtime foreign minister Tariq Aziz guilty of terrorizing Feylis during the Iran-Iraq war, (see Kurdish rebellion of 1983 and Al-Anfal Campaign) sentencing him to 10 years in prison . Mohammed Abdul Saheb, a spokesman for Iraq's high criminal court, said: "Today a judge found Tariq Aziz guilty and sentenced him to 10 years in prison. The evidence was enough to convict him of displacing and killing Faili Kurds. Aziz was a member of the revolutionary command council which cancelled the Iraqi nationality for the Faili Kurds."[14] The spokesman also said Aziz was spared a death sentence for the crimes against humanity because he had a lesser involvement than some of his co-defendants in the atrocities against the Feyli Kurds.[15] Of the other 15 defendants in the Iraqi High Tribunal case, three Saddam loyalists were found guilty and sentenced to death. Two, including Aziz, were sentenced to 10 years in prison. The remaining 10 were acquitted, including Saddam's two half brothers, Watban Ibrahim al-Hassan and Sabbawi Ibrahim al-Hassan. The Feyli Kurd minority comes mainly from an area in northeastern Iraq that straddles the Iraq-Iran border. Saddams regime killed, detained and deported tens of thousands of Feylis early in his 1980-1988 war with Iran, denouncing them as alien Persians and spies for the Iranians.[15][dead link]

2011 Feyli Conference in Baghdad[edit]

On Saturday the first of October 2011, the National Conference for Feyli Kurds held a conference in the Iraqi capital Baghdad which was attended by the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Al-Maliki said in a speech "the Feyli Kurds have been targets for harming, similar to other Iraqi communities". He also called "for the unity of Feyli Kurds under a common tent, uniting them and organizing their activities, together with other Iraqi communities". He ended his speech by saying "we shall support the rights of the depressed Feyli Kurds, beginning with the restoration of their official documents and their presence in their homeland and ending with the paying back the funds that were confiscated from them (during the former regime)". The Iraqi Prime Minister also recognized "that over 22,000 Feyli Kurds had been deported from Iraq by the former regime, calling for the restoration of their rights".[16]

2012 UNHCR report on stateless people residing inside Iraq[edit]

An estimated 120,000 persons are believed to be stateless in Iraq as of 2012. These are mainly Feylis and Bidoons. This figure is gradually decreasing with increasing numbers of Feylis regaining their Iraqi citizenship in accordance with the Nationality Law of 2006. UNHCR is assisting in the identification of stateless persons, raising awareness about their problems and facilitating their access to IDs and other legal documents.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/feyli--2
  2. ^ Faylee Kurds Democratic Union http://www.faylee.org/english/studies/doc3.php
  3. ^ http://www.kurdishacademy.org/?q=node/46
  4. ^ Parthia
  5. ^ Khesrau Goran Kurdistan through your eyes: Volume I (Stockholm 1992) P 152: 161.
  6. ^ The Amnesty International Report, pp.220, 1976, see p.34
  7. ^ Fear, Flight and Forcible Exile: Refugees in the Middle East, Amnesty International, 1997. (see p.13)
  8. ^ Robert Freedman, The Middle East Enters the Twenty-first Century, 416 pp., 2002, ISBN 0-8130-3110-9, p.33
  9. ^ BBC NEWS | Middle East | Crushing Iraq's human mosaic
  10. ^ M. R. Izady. (1992) The Kurds: A Concise Handbook. Taylor & Francis
  11. ^ Anonymous (2014 (acc. March 16, 2014)). "Field Listing :: Refugees and internally displaced persons.". Central Intelligence Agency (US).  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  12. ^ Anonymous (October 1, 1996 (acc. March 18, 2014)). "Iraq: Information on the Kurdish Feyli (Faily/Falli) families, including their main area of residence and their relationship with other Kurdish groups and the Iraqi regime.". Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  13. ^ Hiltermann, J. (2007). A new sectarian threat in the Middle East?. International Review of the Red Cross, 89(868), 795-808.
  14. ^ Anonymous (Nov 2010 (acc. March 02, 2014)). "Tariq Aziz given additional 10-year jail term for persecution of Shia Kurds.". theguardian.com.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  15. ^ a b Yahoo! News | Iraq court gives Tariq Aziz new 10 year sentence[dead link]
  16. ^ Aswat al-Iraq | Over 22,000 Iraq’s Faili Kurds deported by former regime, Maliki says
  17. ^ Inter-Agency Information and Analysis Unit | UNHCR Iraq Fact Sheet June, 2012[dead link]